Objectives: To describe how linguistic tools used by interpreters during return of genomic sequencing results may have impacted communication with Spanish-speaking families, and to discuss the implications for the role of medical interpreters.
Methods: Using discourse analysis, we identified and categorized the various ways hospital-based interpreters adapted clinicians' language in 37 audio-recorded sessions in which Spanish-speaking parents participating in a clinical trial received their child's genomic sequencing results from English-speaking clinicians.
Results: We found that interpreters adapted clinicians' statements using five empathic linguistic tools: contextualization, encouragement, checking comprehension, endearment, and softening. Interpreters used an average of four linguistic tools per session, with contextualization and encouragement being the most frequently used.
Conclusions: Interpreters used empathic linguistic tools to alter clinicians' statements when communicating genomic information to Spanish-speaking families. Our findings demonstrate the critical role of interpreters as cultural mediators and facilitators of understanding for Spanish-speaking families.
Practice implications: This study expands upon the definition of clinical empathy in interpreter-mediated sessions. Our findings suggest that revisions of standards of medical interpretation practice may be warranted regarding interpreters' ability to adapt clinicians' language in a culturally sensitive manner during interpretation.
Keywords: Communication barriers; Cultural competency; Empathy; Genetics; Healthcare disparities; Limited English proficiency; Spanish-speakers.
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